New resource can help you assess hazards and risks and odds ratios

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Stock art of a Cesarean procedure

Photo: Enrique Saldivar via Flickr

Over the years, I’ve presented on reporting medical research findings. Some of the most common questions I get are about writing the findings using accessible language that an average person can understand. It’s particularly difficult when the outcome is reported in units like standard deviations, but reporting hazard ratios and odds ratios can be confusing as well, especially for those who only occasionally write about medical studies.

A new resource from the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University in the UK can help you make sense of those findings and even provide the language and graphics to help your audience understand the results. RealRisk is the brainchild of professor David Spiegelhalter, the center’s chair, a statistician and author of The Art of Statistics, and Executive Director Alexandra Freeman, who told me more about the tool. Continue reading

Provider groups closely monitor Supreme Court case on pharmacy benefit managers

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

The U.S. Supreme Court this month heard oral arguments in the case of Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. At issue is the right of states to regulate pharmacy benefit management (PBMs) companies, which employers and health plans hire as middlemen to manage their prescription benefit programs for workers and other plan members.

During oral arguments on Oct. 6, several justices asked about the burden that health plans encounter when PBM regulations differ from one state to another, as Rachel Cohrs reported for Modern Healthcare. Continue reading

Use analogies to provide perspective for tricky numbers ― such as COVID-19 fatality rates

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dayland/2434961250/">Dayland Shannon</a> via Flickr

Photo: Dayland Shannon via Flickr

It’s no secret that humans are horrible at comprehending and estimating risk, especially when it comes to abstract numbers. It’s one reason (of several) that people fear encountering sharks at the beach more than the undertows that can drown them.

Misperceptions of risk have become an even more urgent life-or-death issue during the pandemic as a substantial number of people attempt to downplay the fatality rate. Continue reading

Know the nuances of vaccine efficacy when covering COVID-19 vaccine trials

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

it’s important to understand how vaccine efficacy is calculated, and other aspects of efficacy that can ensure your reporting on vaccine trial results is precise and accurateI’ve written in previous posts about what to look for in COVID-19 vaccine trials and red flags to monitor. The two most important outcomes in vaccine trials are the vaccine’s safety and its efficacy. Recall that efficacy is different from effectiveness: efficacy refers to how well the vaccine prevents infection in the clinical trial, with effectiveness referring to how well it prevents infection in the real world with a broader and more diverse population. Continue reading

Brief compares candidates’ positions on older Americans’ health

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Trump and BidenA new explainer from The Commonwealth Fund examines how the two presidential candidates will or have approached health issues of prime importance to older adults — Medicare, long-term care and caregiver support.

While it’s a bit like comparing apples and bananas, since only one side can point to any results, this issue brief nevertheless provides a helpful overview of what the U.S. has accomplished under a Trump presidency and how a Biden administration might differ. Continue reading

Freshen your skills with online course on reading medical studies

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

F. Perry Wilson

F. Perry Wilson

When it comes to feeling competent about understanding, interpreting and reporting on medical studies, one under-appreciated fact is that this is a long-term learning process. I first began to really understand how to make sense of medical studies at an AHCJ annual conference workshop.

Still, it wasn’t until I attended that same workshop two more times — and attended a Medicine in the Media workshop at the NIH and did some studying on my own — that I reached a point where I felt I knew what I was doing. Continue reading